2018 National Symposium on Teacher Education for Inclusion – TEDI, UJ, UP, WITS symposium

At the 2018 South African Symposium on Teacher Education for Inclusion, held at Emerald Conference Centre, on 10th July 2018, Teacher Empowerment for Disability Inclusion (TEDI) hosted a symposium entitled:

‘Strengthening teaching to meet the needs of learners with severe to profound disabilities’

TEDI is a University of Cape Town and civil society partnership funded directly by the European Union focusing on learners with profound disabilities. The Department of Higher Education and Training has set up three centres of excellence – The University of the Witwatersrand focusing on educating the Deaf; The University of Pretoria focusing on educating the Visually Impaired; The University of Johannesburg focusing on educating learners with Neurodevelopmental disorders. Representatives from the four projects noted the shortage of teachers skilled in meeting the complex special educational needs of learners with diverse and profound disabilities. The projects outlined at the four institutions aimed to alleviate this shortage by providing teacher training in special needs.

Dr Helen Dunbar-Krige and Dr Jean Fourie  from the University of Johannesburg focused their presentation on ‘Conceptualising teacher training programmes to support learners with Neurodevelopmental disorders.’

Neurodevelopmental disorders are conditions which manifest in childhood and are characterised by impairments in personal, social, academic, or occupational functioning (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Developmental deficits range from highly specific limitations of learning, communication difficulties and attention control to broad impairments of behaviours, social skills and intelligence. This wide range of difficulties poses challenges for educators when supporting these learners in mainstream, full service or special needs schools. Since the formalisation of inclusive education there are more learners in all schools displaying these deficits as reported in the implementation of Education White Paper 6 (Department of Basic Education, 2015). Educators require skilful competence to identify, assess and support these learners. In conceptualising teacher training programmes to address these issues, we discussed the continual tensions between the deficit, medical-based approach and an inclusive, systemic paradigm. Conflicting notions of how to differentiate the curriculum, adapt classroom practices and individualise learning plans characterised the debates. Our deliberations extended to the functioning of multi-disciplinary teams and the blurred roles of professionals and parents in schools in attempting to support learners with neurodevelopmental deficits. In this paper we presented our curricular conceptualisations in attempting to resolve some of the tensions inherent in focusing on neurodevelopmental disorders within a socially just, inclusive education system.